Living through the lockdown, perhaps working remotely, with old routines turned up-side-down, many of us will have reflected on the life we were leading and our experience over the past few months, and wondered how we might better balance our future life to prioritize the things we most value.
Just published, but written before the pandemic, Harry Kraemer’s new book is extremely timely. Full of amusing stories and personal anecdotes to illustrate his thesis, the book carries a serious message, one he has honed teaching MBA students at North Western University’s Kellogg School of Management and through writing previous books on values-based leadership.
While most people have a general idea of what they value and what they would like to prioritize—health, relationships, career, leisure, fun, etc.—few of us match what we know is important with our actions. Kraemer considers how we can put right the disconnect between intentions and actions, how we can refocus the 168 hours in our week, to start living a values-based life—“one that reflects who we are and what matters most to us.”
The book is not about achieving work-life balance—a confusing term that implies choosing between working and living. Rather, it is about making a concerted effort to ensure that the most valued aspects of our life are not drowned out—health considerations ignored, time with friends curtailed by too much time at the gym, work pressures overshadowing family time, leisure time blocking out spirituality, etc.
Although time is the resource focused on, this is not a manual for better time management (that may be a by-product). Instead the book offers a profound insight into the causes of the chronic imbalance so many people experience between their professed desire to live their values and the multiple distractions that get in the way. This is backed up with practical advice on how to take control and move towards living a values-based life and one with a greater sense of purpose.
Deep and ongoing self-reflection is the key to, and the first step, in taking control. It is this that allows us to identify what we truly value and become more aware of the time and effort we are devoting to the things that matter to us. This then leads to a re-evaluation of our life’s priorities—family, health, career, leisure activities, fun, spirituality—and enables us to plan a better future. Kraemer also explains how to overcome various barriers, such as unpleasant “surprises” and “hitting the brick wall,” that can inhibit our progress.
Kraemer uses the concept of "life buckets" as a way of measuring how much time and energy we put into each of the valued aspects of our lives. Buckets that are filled according to how they are prioritized, which is in itself a process constantly refined through ongoing self-reflection.
His penultimate chapter title focuses on one of his own buckets ‘Faith and Spirituality’—something most management authors steer away from. This, which he covers in a non-preachy way, and the final chapter ‘Making a Difference: The Legacy You Leave’, exemplify how this is much more than a typical management book.
About the author
Harry M. Jansen Kraemer, Jr. is Professor of Management and Strategy at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, where he teaches in the MBA and the Executive MBA programs and was a Professor of the Year. He is an executive partner with Madison Dearborn Partners, one of the largest private equity firms in the United States, and is former Chairman and CEO of Baxter International Inc., a multi-billion-dollar global healthcare company.
‘Your 168: Finding Purpose and Satisfaction in a Values-Based Life’, by Harry M. Jansen Kraemer, Jr. Published by Wiley, 2020, ISBN 978-1-119-65854-2